The best part about driving a megabuck supercar, sports car, or hypercar may have something to do with how it looks, how fast it goes from zero to 100, or the sheer exotic nature of the machine. But for real drivers, the defining characteristic of a sports car is how it sounds, and we’re talking about the whole package: That intoxicating intake howl, that burbling exhaust, and the rising crescendo as you bury the throttle.
You may not know this, but making a car sound good is more than just force-fitting a cat-back exhaust and calling it a day. Top-tier automakers spend countless resources and employ a dedicated team of sound engineers to develop and fine-tune an engine’s sound. It takes months or years of exhaustive testing to produce a characteristic engine and exhaust note in most cases.
Why do some cars sound so good? Unsurprisingly, V10 or V12 engines tend to be louder than a puny four-cylinder due to size and volume. The more cylinders, the better. You see, sound-generating vibrations from each combustion cycle inside the cylinder generate pressure waves in the intake and exhaust system. It’s a sound engineer’s job to tame or adjust the pressure waves as the exhaust gasses leave the cylinders, producing that characteristic exhaust sound that enthusiasts love.
Now it’s time for you to decide what the best-sounding motors of all time are. Listen to the most popular engine roars below and, if you disagree, place your votes to move your favourites up the list.
The Current Best-Sounding Engines (if you disagree, don’t forget to vote)
The Veneno is one of the most expensive and powerful Lamborghinis ever made. Designed and developed to celebrate Lamborghini’s 50th anniversary, Veneno rides on the same platform as the Aventador supercar. However, the Aventador’s monstrous 6.5-litre naturally-aspirated V12 is, apparently, not enough for a limited-production Lambo.
The Italian automaker gave the engine more oversized air intakes and a modified exhaust system to produce the Veneno’s characteristic sound. In the process, Veneno has 740 horsepower and 509 pound-feet of torque to play with, more power than in an Aventador S. But with only nine Venenos in existence, hearing this car in action is like spotting a northern white rhino in the wild. Thank goodness for YouTube.
What can you expect from a car built and named after company founder Enzo Ferrari and successor to the F50? You get carbon-fibre construction, scooped-out doors, and an excellent 6.5-litre mid-mounted V12 engine pumping out 651 horsepower and 485 pound-feet of torque. Interestingly, the Ferrari Enzo’s longitudinally mounted V12 is based on the Maserati Quattroporte’s V8 engine, a car that we also love for its exhilarating soundtrack.
The love-it or hate-it fascia is a given. Some publications rank the Enzo as one of the ugliest Ferraris ever made, but you don’t buy an Enzo for how it looks – provided you can find an owner willing to sell one, that is. Instead, the money goes to Enzo’s fancy carbon-fibre construction and rousing V12 soundtrack.
BMW M5 (E60)
Previous generations of the iconic BMW M5 came with inline-six and V8 engines. But the fourth-gen E60 M5 is different. It has a magnificent 5.0-litre aluminium V10 engine derived from BMW’s involvement in Formula One, a machine with no relation to a standard production BMW motor. Enthusiasts refer to the E60 M5 as the last four-door supercar of the modern era. It may resemble a sensible luxury saloon, but it scoots like no other four-door sedan in its heyday.
When the E60 BMW M5 came out in 2004, it immediately became the fastest four-door production sedan. With its S85 V10 engine pumping out 500 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque, the M5’s V10 engine croons vociferously via its quad exhaust pipes.
The Sounds of the Future?
On a rather elegiac note, the engine sound we all love may be relegated purely to memory as the automotive world transitions from petrol engines to electric motors. In response, automakers are innovating on artificial or digital machine sounds to satiate our worldly desires. Enjoy it while it lasts.
We combined a selection of best-sounding car lists from reputable car websites and isolated the 100 most commonly occurring overall by brand and engine type. Then we searched for “[car model] + sound” on YouTube and scraped the view count of the top 12 videos. We then combined average these views out and ranked the cars by view to give us the ‘most popular engine sounds’.
Data was collected in February 2021.
This post was brought to you by Budget Direct Car Insurance